The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado by Rob Witwer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If you walk away with nothing from this book, and from this review, it should be this: by using data, organization, and money, there are political operatives out there manipulating how voters think about their candidates, and not necessarily with accurate information. Not that that is a surprise, at least to some of you, but…
Without a doubt, the book is what it purports to be: a blueprint for the Democratic strategy to successfully turn Republican leaning states, districts and offices over to Democrats. And it’s already worked. Democrats, in what was in 2002 one of the reddest states of country, now control the state House and Senate, both US Senate seats, the Governors mansion, and five of the seven Congressional seats. Further, as the authors, Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer, argue, it’s a plan that is being exported to other states, and even being used nationally, to take down Republicans everywhere.
So what’s the secret? How do Democrats turn a conservative state into a left leaning Democratic stronghold? Tom Tancredo, former Republican Congressman, summed it up nicely:
“It doesn’t matter if you are running for the state legislature or the president of the United States. Brilliant organization, unlimited resources, and the effective use of technology all in the hands of bright people who are driven more than just simple ideology create the most formidable campaign strategy imaginable.”
And that’s exactly what happened. Conceived as a project by several millionaires–and not just your garden variety millionaires, but including dot-com millionaires with a penchant for data manipulation and a surplus of cash–the Colorado story is that of a small cadre of intelligent individuals bypassing the traditional political parties to orchestrate an ambush on Republican office holders that flipped Colorado to the Democrats. Using huge influxes of cash channeled through shadowy 527 non-profits, Democrats used data collection methods to target vulnerable and marginally successful Republicans with vicious mailers and only marginally true television advertising. Republicans never saw it coming, and it wasn’t until almost six years later that they started to pick up the game. Using a method of directing donations to candidates and non-profits categorized as 527s under the IRS tax code, Democrats were able to hide the actual amount of money being spent to attack Republicans, pool from wealthy donors nationwide, and target only a few swing votes to turn elections in several states.
It’s a brilliantly executed strategy, and one I am sure that every politico wishes he had conceived. The tools are available to anyone who will organize them and that is willing to raise and find the money.
As for a read, the book moves fast and feels like an extended magazine piece, full of quotes and interesting anecdotes. However, it’s probably better designed for a political wonk than for the average reader.
As I stated at the outset, the scary aspect of the book is the ability of these operatives, infusing enormous amounts of money, deft and witty campaign messaging (read: attack ads and mailers that smear candidates), and highly organized grassroots management, can, and are, winning elections, and not necessarily on the merits of their candidates.
Fascinating read. Pick it up. Or borrow it from me.
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